LAS VEGAS – Pole-winner Travis Kvapil broke away from a tight pack with four laps to go and held on Saturday night to win the Smith’s Las Vegas 350, while former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve was 21st in his Craftsman Truck Series debut.
Kvapil pulled away from Johnny Benson and Jon Wood at the end to match Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday for the series lead with his fourth victory of the year.
“It was sort of an amazing finish,” Kvapil said. “Those last handful of laps I was running wide open on the outside of turns one and two, but the 23 (Benson) could run wide open on the bottom. It just made for some great racing.
“The 21 (Wood) got loose once under me and I heard him pedal the gas, doing everything he could to not wreck us but still go for the victory. Those guys did an amazing job, and we ran a great race for everybody.”
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Skinner finished 13th to take over the season points lead from Hornaday, who placed 22nd. Skinner, with 3,070 points, has a three-point lead over Hornaday, who fell out of fourth place following a front-tire blowout with 10 laps left.
Benson was second, followed by Wood, Terry Cook and Erik Darnell.
Wood led a race-high 49 laps, while Todd Bodine led 45 laps and Kvapil was in front for 29 – laps 6-22 and the 12 of the final 13.
“We were a little bit tight during the first half of the race,” Kvapil said. “I was trying to run the bottom of the race track through one and two, but my truck wasn’t set up good enough to get through the bumps like I needed.
“So I searched around a little bit. It took me a little while to figure out (how to work turns one and two). I found out that I should run the outside lane; just go around them worked for me. I knew I was better than them through turns one and two after a few laps (after the final restart). It seems like both of them would try and hold the bottom of the racetrack really tight, and I could really keep the momentum up on the outside, roll through and carry a lot of speed.”
Villeneuve qualified seventh on Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval, and was running 16th after 30 laps. But the Canadian star got into the rear of Brian Scott’s car on turn two of lap 46 and dropped back to 25th after pitting on lap 48 so his crew could repair the damage. Villeneuve finished a lap down and never cracked the top 20 after the accident.
“I was running high and I ended up getting sideways,” Villeneuve said. “You can actually slide those trucks a lot without crashing (into the wall), so that’s quite good. I’m surprised because it wasn’t a big hit at all, but it did significant damage. I didn’t expect so much damage, so that’s something to learn.”